In Tucson, Arizona, a young athlete named Mariah Cruz, a freshman distance runner at Pima College, was preparing for a significant race—the AC C conference championships. Her story of resilience and determination stood out, and it’s a tale worth sharing.

Mariah’s connection with running began in the third grade and grew stronger during middle school. Running became her escape—a way to clear her thoughts and build both mental and physical strength.

However, her life took a challenging turn at just 13 months old when she suffered severe burns from hot water. It was a traumatic experience that required numerous surgeries, including on her right foot. She spent months in the hospital, unable to go outside due to the sensitivity of her feet.

Despite these hardships, Mariah’s passion for running remained undeterred. She discovered her talent for distance running in middle school and continued to excel in high school at Mountain View High School. College coaches, including Mark Bennett from Pima College, recognized her potential.

As she entered her senior year, Mariah faced pain that threatened to derail her dreams. She had been offered a college scholarship, but her physical discomfort and the fear of not being able to compete weighed on her. Surgery on her dislocated toe brought relief, but the timing challenged her mentally, especially in her senior year.

With the support of her friends and family, Mariah’s recovery defied expectations, taking only a fraction of the usual time. Her story touched many when she shared it at Camp Courage.

Beyond the track, Mariah aspired to work with the Arizona Burn Foundation. She wanted to provide guidance and hope to others facing similar challenges.

As Mariah prepared for the AC C conference championships, she envisioned crossing the finish line, her journey of resilience propelling her forward. Her story demonstrated that with determination and a clear goal, anyone could overcome obstacles.